Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Europe - Day 1

We thought we were early, or at least on time, but no. When we arrived at the airport, Yale and Brown were taking care of business. Despite the slight hassle with Lufthansa over luggage, group numbers and reservations, all went smoothly at check-in at Seatac. Long-line at security and then lunch with parents and Brown at Anthony's. The Luthansa flight was long (10 hours!) but comfortable, with fresh towels, good service, meals in flight, entertainment.

Watched Up in the Air, with George Clooney and Jason Bateman, glad that I'm not in corporate America nihilism selling BS while ruining lives, and glad that my job is not helping the rich keep their money and maybe steal a bit more. Glad that I'm not a road warrior living out of airports and hotels, eating franchise food and staying inside that bubble.

Arrived at Frankfort airport, not having seen a sunset or any darkness except inside the plane, was herded through a confusing maze to passport control, wrong turn to get to outside and then back inside to area, so boarding passes needed to be checked, and then through luggage screening, where I got special attention because I hadn't emptied water bottle. Let it be said right now that I packed too much, brought a wrong case (REI TourLIte is not, it's heavy, awkward, too many straps, not enough pockets, a poor design...) and too much stuff (won't need a jacket, unless I get seated underneath the vent on the plane, again, too many clothes, could have used another different pair of shorts.

Shuttle flight from Frankfort to Vienna and arrived at a sparkling new and clean airport, shops, Starbucks, well-signed and organized. Met Anna and Colin, young, energetic, sense of humor, easy-going, Anna has special place in her heart for C (so do I), loaded gear onto Marco Coach, and off we were into the heart of Vienna. Beautiful countryside, not littered, windmill farms, even the industrial areas seemed well placed on the landscape.

Marco parked the bus in front of the Opera House, and we disembarked, strolling up Kartner Strasse, the main pedestrian drag. Loads of Viennese out walking, sitting in cafes, eating, coffee, ice cream, beer, Hot Dog Stands, mimes and street performers, all comfortable and at ease, despite throngs of tourists, no litter. Bank machine transactions easy, free wi-fi outside McDonald's, and ducked inside St. Stephen's Cathedral, beautiful old Gothic structure under renovation, but dark inside intended to put fear of God into the congregants. We met back up at the Opera House in time (all present and on time!) but also had enough slack to peek into the foyer (Baroque foo-foo) while the opera crowd were gathering for the evening's Wagner performance.

Dinner at Hotel (dorm, Hotel Atlas), spartan InTourist design, it's fine, but noisy on the busy street and I'm all jet lagged out, so writing at 3:30 a.m. local time. Dinner consisted of Kix soup (Kix cereal in some type of broth, no I'm not making this up), schnitzel (Viennese chicken-fried veal steak), and a pretty good salad with butter lettuce, plus dessert. No coffee, that's extra. (Boo.) Stroll after dinner through Rathaus Park and Volks Garten for a beverage with the parents and Scott, then back to hotel and time to crash.

Great first day, all seems well, looking forward to the tour, the band playing and watching this all unfold.

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